14 November, 2011

14 November 1944

438th AAA AW BN
APO 230 % Postmaster, N.Y.
Germany
14 November, 1944       1435

Dearest darling Wilma –

As I wrote you yesterday, I got mail from you in the late p.m. and it made me very happy, so happy in fact that I later opened a bottle of cognac and played poker with the boys. Now I suppose you’re thinking I might have done that anyway; I confess, I might have – but you can’t prove, darling, that I would have been as happy – now, can you? Seriously, though – dear – it was so pleasant hearing from you again. I had only missed three days, but it seemed like a long, long time.

Lawrence’s letter told me more about the Halloran; he’s enjoying the place and I’m tickled – because he did find Tufts – so damned unbearable. He seems to have some pretty good boys with him and that helps a lot. That’s one of the reasons I find this outfit so boring at times. I mean the fact that I haven’t any really good companions here now – at headquarters. The boys I spent most time with at headquarters are not with the outfit now and I don’t have much chance to spend a great deal of time with the line officers, like Pete and a few others. The fellows here are O.K. -–but you probably know what I mean. Incidentally a few officers moved in near us a few days ago. They are with a pretty famous infantry division; I took care of a couple of them for minor things and one of the Captains invited me over to lunch with them this noon. I had a nice time and it was a pleasure to exchange ideas with another group of fellows for a change. After 2 years or more with the same gang, you get a little stagnant. I’m going to drop up and visit them at their quarters one of these evenings.

Greg's brother, Lawrence in uniform
with their parents, Pauline and Lewis

I liked your reactions on sleeping in what was once my bedroom, darling. Someday we’ll share the same one. I don’t know how much of my background you could perceive from those surroundings, dear – but I hope your perceptions were good ones. I didn’t spend very much time in that room, though, but I do remember way back quite a few years ago how I would look out of the back window and across an open field and all the way to the horizon. That was before the school was built. I guess I was quite a dreamer in those days, dear; I never knew then what I wanted exactly, but had I been able to crystallize my ideas then – I know I would have wanted some position in life and a wife to enjoy that life together with me; the wife would have been someone like you, sweetheart – and since I have you, I’m a very fortunate fellow.

House in Mattapan, a neighborhood of Boston, Massachusetts
Today
I guess a great part of those years in Mattapan were spent in that little old den – Latin School, college and medical school – night after night of sitting at a desk, the smoke so thick you could hardly see. But I always quit studying at 2200 come hell or high water, and then I’d go downstairs, have some milk and talk with the folks. Those were good days but I’m glad they’re behind me; I’m glad a good deal is behind me for that matter, dear, because the one thing that interests me now is the future – our future together – and that is wonderful food for thought, sweetheart.

Guess I’ll close now and dream awhile. I hope all is well at home, darling, and that you are managing to keep busy. My love to the folks and

My everlasting love to you, dear
Greg.

* TIDBIT *

about Halloran Hospital

Old Postcard of Halloran Hospital, Staten Island, New York

Greg mentioned that his brother Lawrence, a dentist, was stationed at Halloran General Hospital. It was established in 1941 in structures that had been built during the 1930s to house the Willowbrook State School. World War II interrupted the state’s intentions to open the facility for the developmentally disabled when the Army annexed the buildings and set up a hospital for returning wounded soldiers. With more than 3,000 beds, Halloran was the largest Army hospital in the nation. Most of the first cosmetic surgery was done there to improve the faces of the disfigured soldiers.

The Army surrendered control of the hospital in 1947 to the Veterans Administration, which renamed the facility Halloran Veterans Administration Hospital. The presence of the VA Hospital had pleased Staten Island residents and politicians, many of whom opposed the state’s plan to establish a facility for the developmentally disabled. But despite the community’s wishes, the military left in 1951 to make way for Willowbrook State School. During the decade Halloran existed, the Army and VA had developed a hospital that won national acclaim and treated upward of 163,000 veterans during and after the war.

Halloran Hospital officially closed in April 1951, handing over control of all the buildings to the state. By August, Willowbrook State School’s census had already reached 2,840. The school was designed for 4,000, but by 1965 it had a population of 6,000. At the time it was the biggest state-run institution for the mentally handicapped in the United States. Conditions and questionable medical practices and experiments prompted then Senator Robert Kennedy to call it a "snake pit." Public outcry led to its closure in 1987 and to civil rights legislation protecting the handicapped.

A portion of the grounds and some of the buildings were incorporated into the campus of the College of Staten Island, which moved to Willowbrook in the early 1990s. The rest of the buildings sit abandoned and dilapidated in the Staten Island Greenbelt.

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